Clark State Community College instructors Larry Everett shows Lauren Queen some of the functions on a hand held GPS device as the precision agriculture class works outside Wednesday. Bill Lackey/Staff

Clark State gets $200K for high-tech precision agriculture program

Clark State Community College has received a $200,000 grant to advance research and education for its precision agriculture program, an increasingly important job field.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education awarded the grant to the program, which has grown over the past couple years. In June, the school added precision agriculture degrees and expanded its programs.

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Aimee Belanger-Hass, who works in the department at Clark State, said the money will be spent to help students get more hands-on learning opportunities. Precision agriculture uses technology such as unmanned aircraft and GPS to improve efficiency in areas such as planting, watering and fertilizer applications.

“We’re going to be buying a couple new vehicles, we’re going to have two fixed-wing and two rotary copters, as well as a multi-spectral sensor and a hyper-spectral sensor,” she said.

The grant will help the school improve its degree programs and help the future of the industry, she said. Clark County and the surrounding area has a large farming population. Agriculture contributes $105 billion to the Ohio economy and accounts for one in seven jobs in the state, according to the Ohio Farm Bureau.

The precision agriculture technology degree gives Clark State students options to specialize in the industry, Belanger-Hass said. The school now offers two degrees in precision agriculture.

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The grant will add to the school’s agriculture technology, said Frank Beafore, executive director of SelectTech GeoSpatial, which makes and sells unmanned aerial vehicles. SelectTech is a partner of Clark State’s.

“This will allow us to broaden the physical assets to support the small UAV portion of Clark State’s efforts in precision agriculture,” Beafore said. “In the case of Clark State, we will provide fixed-wing and vertical-takeoff aircraft and associated ground support equipment to allow Clark State to expand their program.”

The industry continues to grow, he said, and will need hard-working young people in it for years to come.

“We continue to look for ambitious trained technical people to fill our ranks, and I know other industries do also,” Beafore said. “That is our major objective — to work with schools to help grow talent for the future.”

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Student Braden Anderson said he chose Clark State because it offered him learning experiences that will hopefully help him land a full-time job at an agriculture company.

“I chose precision ag here mainly because it is a really nice program to get into with the current state of agriculture,” he said. “There is a lot of hands-on learning and lot of one-on-one time with instructors.”

He’s at the start of his education at Clark State but has already learned a lot.

“I’ve taken the beginner classes, which is intro all the way to a mapping class,” he said. “I’ve learned how to make maps, which you can produce whatever you want them to be. You can scout fields, assess storm damage.”

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